Galle is the capital of the Southern Province. The popular derivation of its name is from the Sinhala word Gaala – a cattle pen.
The mighty king Ravana’s cattle pen had extended from the present day Mahapola premises to the Town Hall, according to legend.
Galle is also considered to be the Tarshish in the Bible.
It is reputed for cottage-crafts, lace making, tortoise shell work, gem polishing, ivory carving, jewellery and ornamental ebony elephants.
Area – 6.5 sq. miles
Latitude – 6° 2′ North
Longitude – 80° 13′ East
Altitude – 41 feet above Mean Sea Level
Weather – Longest day – 22nd June, shortest day – 22nd December. On the 7th April and the 5th September the sun is directly overhead Galle.
Emblem – A cock standing on a rock.
In about 2300 B.C. the Galle mechanics are reputed to have invented the king Ravana’s airship, Dandumonaraya named Pushpaka Yanaya
A.D. 545 – Cosmas Indicopleustes, Greek merchant, makes first reference to Galle.
1000 – Masudi, Muslim traveller, makes specific reference to Galle.
1344 – Ibn Batuta, the Arab traveller, from Morocco, visits Galle.
1409 – Chinese General Cheng Ho and his men landed at Galle.
1505 – Lourenço de Almeida, son of the Viceroy of Goa, was the first Portuguese to set foot in Galle.
1587 – The Portuguese capture Galle.
1592 – James Lancaster, a pioneer sailor, was the first Englishman to land in Galle.
1625 The Portuguese built the Fort of St. Cruz at Galle.
1640 – i). The Dutch capture Galle. ii). The 1st map showing Galle and its harbour was produced by Barretto de Resende.
1663 – The Dutch built the Galle Ramparts.
1758 – The first breadfruit tree brought to Ceylon from Batavia, planted in the Galle Fort.
1796 – The British capture Galle.
1800 – The Survey Department of Ceylon was created by a Proclamation issued at point de Galle.
1801 – The Kachcheri system introduced.
1810 – The British brought in Chinese and settled them at Galle to cultivate English vegetables. This settlement later came to be known as ‘China Garden’.
1832 – The Galle Library inaugurated.
1838 Galle-Colombo mail coach commenced.
1844 The Galle Police Courts established.
1848 The first lighthouse in Ceylon, built at Galle.
1850 Galle-Colombo ‘Pigeon Express’ started.
1854 – The first Sinhala Magazine in Ceylon –Yathalaba Sangarawa was published in Galle.
1860 – ‘Lanka Lokaya’, the first newspaper in Ceylon published in Galle.
1862 – The first bank in Galle, along modern lines, the Mercantile Bank established.
Prior to it was the ‘Kittange system of Banking’, which was confined to Galle, and managed by the South Indian Chettiars.
1866 – The first direct telegraph message from New York, received at Galle.
1867 – The first meeting of the Galle Municipal Council held.
1868 – The Oriental Hotel (later the New Oriental Hotel), the last and only one of the Victorian Hotels to survive today, opened. It is the first registered hotel in Ceylon.
1870 – A newspaper called ‘Gall telegraph’ published in Galle.
1874 i). Galle Cricket Club founded.
ii). The construction of the St. Mary’s Cathedral.
1880 – The arrival of Colonel Henry Steele Olcott in Galle.
1881 – The construction of the Galle Clock Tower.
1885 – i). The Galle Gymkhana Club founded.
ii). The Hindu Vel Festival commenced at Galle.
1886 – The first horse race in Galle.
1887 The first Buddhist Sunday Dhamma school in Ceylon, started at
Wijayananda Vihara, Galle. It was at this temple that Colonel H. S. Olcott observed the five precepts in, for the first time.
1888 – The birth of the National hero, Edward Henry Pedris, at Dangedara in Galle.
1889 — Opening of Victoria Park. (Now Dharmapala Park)
1892 — Reservoir at Bekke was built.
1894 — The first train from Colombo reached Galle. People had danced on the platform, with a band in attendance.
1896 — The first Galle baby born in London. She was named ‘London Harry’.
1897 — King Choolalankara of Siam visits Galle.
1903 — The demise of Dr. P. D. Anthonisz, in whose memory the majestic Galle Clock Tower was built by a grateful public, while he was still living.
1905 — i). Richmond-Mahinda big match series commenced.
ii), The first owner car arrived in Galle.
1907 — Low Country Planters Association formed. (L.C.P.A.)
1911 — Hiyare Reservoir constructed.
1913 — The Southern Province Boy Scouts Association founded.
1919 — At the age of 13, Prof. Lyn Ludowyk, then a student of Richmond College, was the youngest King’s Scout in the British Empire.
1922 — i). Dr. Rabindranath Tagore visited Galle.
ii). Widespread epidemic of bubonic plague in Galle.
1924 — The first film theatre ‘Britannica’ opened.
1926 — i). Ceylon National Congress Sessions held in Galle with E.W. Perera as president. ii). Galle gets electricity.
1927 — Mahatma Gandhi visits Galle.
1930 — The first principal, P. R. Gunasekara of Mahinda College, elected to the Galle Municipal Council. He ended his career as the Ceylon’s High Commissioner in Australia.
1931 — Mahinda College Scout Troop represented by B. Piyadasa de Silva, at the International Scout Jamboree held at Arrow Park, England.
1933 — The Patron Saint of Galle Cricket, E. M. Karunaratne (E. M. K.) of the Galle Cricket Club, elected President of the Ceylon Cricket Association.
1935 – The first aeroplane seen at Galle.
1937 – The first Cricketer from Galle, to play for the All Ceylon Cricket Team D. D. Jayasinghe of Mahinda College.
1938 – Mohamed Macan Markar of Galle, the first Muslim in Ceylon, to be knighted.
1939 – i). The first Mayor of Galle elected – W. Dahanayake.
ii). The first Sinhala speech in the Galle Municipal Council made by Muh. A. William Wijeratne.
1940 – i). Ananda Samarakoon’s National Anthem first sung at Mahinda College.
ii). Mayor W. Dahanayake declared May Day a holiday for the Municipal Workers, long before 1956.
iii). A group of scouts of the St. Aloysius College, Galle, scaled 14.700 feet of the Himalayan Mountain range.
1942 – The first Muslim Mayor of Ceylon, A.I.H.A. Wahab, elected at Galle.
1953 – i). The demise of the founding father of hydro electricity in Ceylon, D.J. Wimalasurendra, who was born at Muhandiramgewatta, Galwadugoda in Galle.
ii). The All Ceylon Buddhist Congress holds sessions at Galle.
iii). Wicketkeeper W. B. Bennett, playing for Mahinda College against the Galle Cricket Club, dismissed all 10 batsmen, in one innings to establish a world record.
1955 – The last English G.A. of Galle, R.H.D. Manders assumes duties.
1956 – Galle gets a new Town Hall.
1958 – W.M. Neil de Silva of Galle, captains the Ceylon Athletic Team.
1959 – The Galle MP, Dr. W. Dahanayake, assumes duties as the Prime Minister of Ceylon.
1961 – Yuri Gagarin, the first Soviet Cosmonaut, visits Galle.
1963 – The Galle Cricket Club wins the ‘Daily News Trophy’.
1964 – National Independence Celebrations held at Galle.
1967 – i). Galle Municipal Council turns 100 years old.
ii). The first ‘Cricket Stamp’ issued. Cricket enthusiasts will be interested to know that Galle has a claim to Sri Lanka’s First Cricket Stamp. The 25 cent stamp issued in 1967 to commemorate the Centenary of the Galle Municipal Council which depicts a large area of the Esplanade, has been included in the category of cricket stamps by philatelists.
1969 – Galle Fort declared an Archaeological Reserve.
1970 – Dr. Cyril Ponnamperuma of Galle, was the first Ceylonese to handle the precious lunar soil, when the Apollo astronauts returned from their journey to the moon.
1992 – Galle city declared a World Heritage site.
Some phrases synonymous with Galle
1. Weda bari unath gama Galley
(One who tries to live by the reputation alone)
2. Ikkai mai galu giya
Ikka giya mang awa
(When one gets hiccup, one of the practises at Galle is to sip water seven times, while reciting the above stanza in one’s head. It is said to be an instant cure).
3. Wedath ahaki
(A good worker also hailing from Galle).
4. Galu giya aawe netho
(Refers to the disappearance of youth at the 1971 insurrection. With grateful thanks, to Prins Gunasekera, the then MP for Habaraduwa)
5. Galle Legs
It is a type of filariasis brought to our country by a Chinese called ‘Chiang Kai’ who had come with General Cheng Ho, way back in 1409 A.D.
6. Gaalley kollo bohoma vasai
Ung hapuwath Naaga visai
Yakada kandan dekata navai
Dekata nawala thunata kadai
(The boys of Galle are very dangerous
If they bite you, it’ll be like a snake bite!
They can bend iron girders!
Bend them in two and break them into three
7. Galle Face Green
The name brings back nostalgic memories of native Galle.
8. Some Landmarks of Galle
i. Pacha Gaha (Fibber’s tree)
The space under this tree was akin to the world famous Speakers’ Corner at Hyde Park, London, the difference being that in addition to people who wanted to get something off their chest, minor politicos, political aspirants, agitators, ‘Kavi Kola- karayas’ (poets of sorts who recited and distributed their work written in sheets of paper), magicians, astrologers, itinerant vendors of instant cures for everything from the common cold to snake bites, would also extol the virtues of their wares here. It is now no more, bowing to the Law of Impermanence.
ii. Moda Ela (Fool-cut canal)
The fool-cut canal. It was cut by the British, at Galle to drain inland water to the sea. However, on completion, it was found that instead of water flowing to the sea, sea water was flowing inland. The people then started calling it the ‘Moda Ela’. It exists to this day and functions with a pumping system.
A poem written by teacher, A.B. Dionysius de Silva
Sweet city of Ruhuna, adorned by ramparts,
Galu Pura of traditional fame;
How glorious thine enthralling vistas
Vying with each other to exalt thy name.
Leaving their ancient stately heritage
Portuguese and Dutch in by-gone days
Furnished us with landmarks, tarnished by age
Standing as sentinels in diverse ways.
Skirted by mighty Roomassala ridge
With well known Unawatuna hard by seen
Fringing the ramparts – the butterfly bridge
Depict a gracefully picturesque scene.
Splendid record Galu Pura did hold,
In scenic beauty, second to none
Gigantic clock tower, as monument bold
Venture to kiss the clouds in fun.
Embellishing Ruhuna’s annals with grandeur
Graced by educationists of Olcott’s fame,
Of pandits, scholars, philanthropists of lustre
And Premier Dahanayake appending his name.
Gone are the renowned ‘Galle Bulath Vita’
The famous ‘Pacha Gaha’ honoured of yore
Veterans of Galle, now sigh with pity
Bowing to law of impermanence – they’re no more.